Roommates: Minimizing roommate drama and diva disasters

Sammy Caiola and Sammy Caiola

So maybe you’ve spent the last 18 years sharing a bedroom with a younger sibling who drew on your furniture and ripped the heads off of your favorite toys. Maybe you’ve gotten into catfights with suitemates while away at [insert geeky pre-college program here]. But whatever sharing you’ve done in the past, nothing prepares you for living with a complete stranger for a whole year, an experience that can leave you with a lifelong friend, an arch nemesis or a lot less stuff than you moved in with. Here are some tips for minimizing roommate drama:

Rules of residence

Don’t make the assumption that your general “do’s and don’ts” will align with your roommate’s. Every person has their own standards for cleanliness, privacy, noise level and the rest. The best thing to do is talk about it from the get-go, maybe even write it down, because you won’t know your “do” is a “don’t” until you’ve done it, and then it’s too late.

Safe and sound

The house I grew up in had an open door policy, so I never got used to carrying keys or locking up behind me. As it turned out, my roommate was pretty adamant about sealing the entrance at all times. That was a good thing, because our stuff was always secure. It was a bad thing when I’d forget to bring my keys to the bathroom and she’d lock up and leave before I finished my shower. To avoid unnecessary nudity and humiliation, talk to each other about who’s locking the door and when. Or just don’t forget your keys.

Rock on with your socks on

Everybody loves music, and our affinity for certain genres can have a lot of influence on who we are and what we do. While I can respect and sometimes (guiltily) relate to Taylor Swift fans, it’s not my go-to jam. And I’m sure my roommate felt the same way about my favorite iTunes playlist. So establish some mutually liked music that can be played in the room and when it can or cannot be played. Or if you can’t find a middle ground between his DragonForce and your John Mayer, just invest in a pair of headphones.

Three’s company

There may come a time this year when you are sexually attracted to another person. You may want to bring that person back to your dorm room. If this situation arises, it is vital that you keep your roommate in the loop. If possible, ask your roommate in advance when you can have the room to yourself. When caught in a spontaneous moment of passion, take a minute to send a cautionary text message so that your roommate can alert you before she comes back. Lock the door so that in case she does come back, you can at least put your clothes on while she’s turning the key. And if all else fails, feel free to write a warning on your white board or throw a sock on the door. Trust me, failure to do so will result in awkwardness for everyone involved.

Sharing is caring

Even if you draw a red line down the middle of the room, you’ll end up in each other’s stuff at some point. What’s important is establishing what stuff can and cannot be touched. Talk about what food your roommate can take in a fit of late-night study hunger and what valuable treats are off limits. What about paper towels? Scissors? Her hair dryer? His computer charger? What you consider harmless borrowing could be a serious infringement on your roommate’s privacy, so make sure you ask before you rummage through his or her belongings.

You’ve heard lots of crazy roommate stories, from people getting sexiled to screaming fights in the hallway. But when it comes down to it, your roommate is just someone to live with. Just be respectful and communicate frequently, and you’ll have your roommate chemistry mastered in no time.

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